1 FROZEN (Madonna)
Most of the facts you know already. Moving on from 'Evita' and motherhood, Madonna this week releases her first new studio album since 1994s Bedtime Stories. Hailed by many as a return to form for the original Girl Power superstar is is one of the first big albums of 1998. Frozen is the first single from that album, immaculately produced by William Orbit with an ethereal atmosphere that ranks it as one of her best singles for a long long time. That might explain why it has gone straight in at Number One. Simple words, but significant ones. Those who though Madonna's days as a major chart force were over will be shocked into silence - this is believe it or not her first Number One single for almost eight years. Although she holds the phenomenal record of 32 consecutive Top 10 hits between 1984 and 1994 only a small proportion of those hit Number One - seven to be precise, the last coming in 1990 in the shape of Vogue. Since then she has hit Number 2 three times but also had the almost unknown experience of singles missing the Top 10 altogether, Take A Bow and Oh Father both reaching Number 16 to tie as her smallest chart singles ever. Write her off at your peril. Few enough artists have ever had eight Number One hits and she is now level with the Rolling Stones and Take That with only Abba, Cliff Richard, Elvis Presley and The Beatles having had more. The dramatic feat of Frozen also writes Madonna's name into a record table that few thought she would ever occupy - that of the longest gaps between Number One hit singles. Vogue's last official day at Number One was the 11th May 1990, making it a few days short of 7 years 10 months since then, squeezing her into the table just above UB40 who waited 7 years 279 days between hitting Number One with I Got You Babe and Can't Help Falling In Love. The list of acts who have waited more than 7 years between chart-topping hits is actually quite fascinating. Both The Bee Gees and Cliff Richard appear no less than twice, a reflection on the way their careers have gone through any number of revivals. Officially champions in this respect are the Righteous Brothers who had gone over 25 years between Number Ones when Unchained Melody hit the top in November 1990, even if that was through a reissue of a single that had previously charted a mere six months after You've Lost That Loving Feeling was Number One.
[And with this single Madonna kicked off her second imperial phase, a career-defining comeback which would arguably last for the next eight years].
4 THE BALLAD OF TOM JONES (Space featuring Cerys)
Several years ago I started writing about the British charts on the internet with one very important aim in mind. To spread the message that Britain is unique. Nowhere, but nowhere in the world has such a climate that records that are so bizarre they smack of genius can become major hit singles. Space's new single is the perfect example of this. The followup to Avenging Angels may well be their most inspired single ever. It features, as the billing makes apparant, a guest vocal from Cerys Matthews of Catatonia as the single tells the tale of two warring lovers who are at each others throats until they are suddenly reunited by the sound of a Tom Jones record. As you might expect this comes as a surprise to both Cerys and Tommy Scott.. she points out "I've never thrown my knickers at you" only for him to add "...and I don't come from Wales." You've guessed - it is quite the funniest record to chart for a long, long time. Maybe in a critical moment it is possible to point to the lack of an actual melody or hummable hook but the musical quality of the track is not the issue here and face it, any song that contains the line "I still want to cut off your nuts." is surely worthy of classic status. The song sails past the Number 6 peak of their last hit Avenging Angels to give the Liverpool geniuses what is - for now - their biggest hit single to date.
7 HOW DO I LIVE (LeAnne Rimes)
Makes you sick doesn't it? This young lady is a mere 15 years old yet last year she outsold Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and the Spice Girls themselves in America and made more money than even high earners such as U2. Listening to this, her first ever UK hit single and the current US smash hit it is easy to see why, a powerfully sung ballad that is almost certain to earn classic status, or at the very least end up propping up the running order on Greatest Love Songs Ever compilation CDs for the next decade and beyond. Certain friends of mine complain that this is another example of the chart being taken over by the curse of bland. At least it doesn't rattle along at 150bpm.
8 SHOW ME LOVE (Robyn)
Not to be confused with the Robin S single of the same name (although it is an easy mistake to make) this Robyn is from Sweden and is being pushed as the next big pop sensation. Backed by the same team that gave us Five and the Backstreet Boys, this is her second hit single. The first was the largely unnoticed Do You Know (What It Takes) which reached Number 26 in a fleeting chart career in August last year. This new single is far far better, a great pop song that gives her a deserved Top Ten hit.
10 WHO AM I (Beenie Man)
A ragga single that has come from nowhere, inspired by specialist club and radio play but with enough of a following to ensure that an unexpected Top 10 hit has resulted. Overall unremarkable save for the way the track cheekily borrows lines wholesale from Luther Vandross' Never Too Much.
11 NEVER EVER (All Saints)
12 ANGELS (Robbie Williams)
Two long-running hit singles finally bow out from the Top 10 having both spent their entire chart careers to date in the upper reaches, All Saints having had an epic 15 week run with Robbie Williams close behind on 12 weeks. Both acts have had followup singles waiting in the wings since the start of the year with release dates for both having been revised backwards so many times it is hard to keep track. Whoever complained that the chart was too fast moving?
15 UNFORGIVEN II (Metallica)
Another inevitably huge single from the metal legends who are about to kick off a worldwide tour. Following on from The Memory Remains which reached Number 13 last November this single is, as you might expect, a sequel to their 1991 track Unforgiven which peaked - and this is the really spooky part - at Number 15.
16 YOUR LOVE IS SWEETER (Finlay Quaye)
Winner of the Brit award for Best British Male, the ever-improving Finlay Quaye appears with his fourth Top 40 single and one which marks a dramatic improvement on the Number 29 peak of his last, It's Great When We're Together. There is no doubting the quality of the song, written by that prolific composer 'Trad.' Joking aside, this is a slightly different version to that which appears on his current Top 10 album and was recorded at the famous Abbey Road studios. I'll put the press release down to comment that above all the single is short, sweet and fabulous.
22 THE PASSENGER (Iggy Pop)
Is there no end to the uses which Iggy Pop's back catalogue can be put? Having never had a chart single before 1987, Iggy Pop has had a run of hit singles over the past ten years giving him a far better strike rate than he had in his 1970s heyday. His last Top 40 appearance came in November 1996 when his classic Lust For Life became a hit single for the first time and reached Number 26 thanks to its use in the film Trainspotting. The Passenger was from the same album as Lust For Life and is something of a jukebox favourite to this day. It is currently being used in a series of TV adverts for Toyota, reason enough it seems to repromote the track and sure enough it lands just outside the Top 20 to become his second biggest hit ever more than 20 years after it was first recorded. The Iggster's biggest ever solo hit is funnily enough the only one not to be a reissue Real Wild Child (Wild One) peaking at Number 10 in January 1987 although even that now classic recording was a modern day retread of a classic Rock and Roll song recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis amongst others.
23 TRULY (Steven Houghton)
Funny how these things work out isn't it? The second star of the TV series London's Burning to have a hit single, Steven Houghton's first single Wind Beneath My Wings was spookily released the week after he performed the song on the TV show, resulting in both the single and its parent album shooting into the Top 10, the former peaking at Number 3 last November. Last weekend saw the screening of the final episode of the current series and featured Houghton's character Greg involved in an accident that left him recovering in hosptial. Cue touching scene with his girlfriend with a spookily familiar voice performing a version of Lionel Richie's Truly audible in the background. Incredible! It is his new single! Such marketing cynicism aside the cover of the classic ballad (which first reached Number 6 for its writer at the end of 1982) gives him a second hit although he still has one more hurdle to jump before he matches the peak of former London's Burning co-star John Alford who had 3 Top 30 hits himself (all covers of course) in 1996.
25 IF YOU WANT ME (Hinda Hicks)
The second single but the first Top 40 hit for Hinda Hicks, her first single I Wanna Be Your Lady missed the chart back in December. One of a number of upcoming UK R&B artists, If You Want Me makes a far stronger impression thanks to the growing interest in the singer from West Sussex. No modern R&B track would be complete without a reference to the genre's golden age and this is no exception, the central riff of the single being a sample from Kool and the Gang's Too Hot.
27 MUSIC IN MY MIND (Adam F)
The second Top 40 hit for Adam F, this following on from his Number 20 hit Circles which charted in September last year. The 'F' stands for Fenton, a nod to the musical history of his family. He is the son of a certain Bernard Jewry who shot to fame as Shane Fenton in the early 1960s with his group the Fentones and reached the Top 20 with Cindy's Birthday in 1962. He was also one of the few acts to have had two separate chart careers under two different names. Jewry/Fenton reappeared over ten years later with a rockabilly throwback image, calling himself by the name for which he will always be associated and with which he hard seven Top 10 hits between 1973 and 1984 - Alvin Stardust.
32 NAKED AND SACRED (Maria Naylor)
Formerly a much in demand session singer and most famously the voice on Robert Miles' international smash One And One, Maria Naylor now launches a well-overdue solo career and creeps inside this weeks' Top 40. The song itself is recycled, first performed by Chynna Phillips on her 1996 solo album. The former Wilson Phillips singer could only reach Number 62 with the track, Maria Naylor has beaten that easily.
37 HARD TIMES COME EASY (Richie Sambora)
A significant new entry this, the first ever solo Top 40 hit for Bon Jovi's celebrated bassist. Although one of the first Bon Jovi members to record a solo album (1990s Stranger In This Town was his first) his only brush with the singles chart to date came in 1991 when Ballad Of Youth reached Number 59. This new single from his new album fares much better although given his own pedigree and the obvious quality of the single it is something of a shame that it has not done better.
38 A MAN BEHIND THE MUSIC (Queen Pen)
An unremarkeable new entry at the very bottom end of the chsrt, noteworthy save for the fact that this is another production from Teddy Riley, the original master of New Jack Swing whose work with artists like Blackstreet bas proved that he can turn his hand to just about any kind of urban track.